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Sales Conferences: Worth It or a Waste of Time and Money?

RepVue Team
RepVue TeamMar 12, 2024

For decades now, sales conferences have been touted as a way to network, learn new skills, and gain valuable insights into the industry. But what about today, in a post-COVID business environment? 

Here’s our take: sales conferences are not worth the time and money (with one exception). And below, we’ll cover what you can do instead to improve your sales skills.

IMPORTANT: We’re not talking about industry conferences here! We’re talking about conferences for salespeople about sales. Industry conferences are a whole other story!

High Costs and Low ROI of Sales Conferences

Years ago, sales conferences were certainly a great opportunity to network, learn new strategies, and gain valuable insights into the industry. But lately, not so much. 

Attending a sales conference can be expensive, with costs including registration fees, travel expenses, and accommodations. Registration alone for Salesforce Dreamforce in 2023 was $2,299! (And accommodations in San Francisco where the event was held are not cheap, either.) Additionally, there is the opportunity cost of time spent away from work.

Plus, conferences often cover topics that are already well-known or easily accessible for free online. Many of the speakers at these events are paid sponsorships and often not experts in their field, and their presentations may lack depth and substance. 

Also, the networking opportunities at these events are often overhyped, and many attendees leave without making any meaningful connections.

It’s still possible to gain valuable insights and make new connections, but it’s not guaranteed. And even then, these benefits may not outweigh the costs. 

Alternatives to Traditional Conferences

Instead of attending a sales conference, there are a number of alternatives to replace the networking and professional development benefits are more cost- and time-efficient. 

Networking Online

Networking used to be one of the prime reasons to attend a sales conference. But today, networking with other salespeople primarily takes place online.

LinkedIn is an obvious place to connect with other sales professionals. We’d also recommend checking out the thriving sales communities on Reddit, in channels like r/sales, r/salesdevelopment, or r/salesengineers. And you can ask and answer questions about sales organizations right here on RepVue.

By actively participating in these online communities, you can build relationships with other professionals, share ideas and insights, and even generate leads.

 Learning Coaching Resources

As we mentioned above, sometimes the training at conferences can be hit-or-miss. Rather than attending a large event with a broad range of topics that may or may not apply to you, look online to find specific sales education resources that are absolutely free. Hubspot has tons of great articles on sales strategies and tactics. RepVue does, too. There are tons of great sales podcasts. You can even find great sales training on YouTube — but we’d suggest being wary of anyone who claims to be a sales expert if the only thing that they seem to have done is sell sales training … especially if that training feels more like a “get rich quick” scheme.

You can also hire a sales coach if you want additional help, sometimes for a fraction of the cost of attending a sales conference. A good sales coach will tailor the training to your specific needs and goals. They can meet with you regularly, online or in-person, whenever and wherever it’s convenient. 

Oftentimes, the thing that a coach will help you with most is not the best opener or closing tactics — but the habits that you need to practice every day to drive incremental improvement.

Looking for your next sales job? Find it on RepVue.

Measuring Sales Conference Success

If you decide to attend a sales conference, be sure to set metrics for what you want to get out of it. It’s important to identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most to you. These KPIs will help you determine and justify whether the conference was worth the investment of time and resources, and if you should attend this or other conferences again in the future.

Key Performance Indicators

Some common KPIs for measuring the success of a sales conference include:

  • Networking: Did you make valuable connections at the conference that could lead to future business or career opportunities? How many? Would you have been able to connect with them outside of the conference?
  • Education: What areas or sales skills would you like to improve? Did you learn valuable information or skills at the conference that can be applied to your business?
  • Opportunities: If you’re selling to other salespeople, then a sales conference might be a great way to fill your pipeline.

By tracking these KPIs, you can determine whether or not the conference was a worthwhile investment for yourself or your company.

Remember, while sales conferences can be useful for networking and education, it’s important to  fairly measure your desired outcomes against the costs to achieve them. By tracking your pre-determined KPIs, you can make more informed decisions about which conferences to attend in the future.

Improving Conference Value

If you do decide to attend a sales conference, here are some ways to make the most out of your experience:

Strategic Planning

Before you attend the conference, create a strategic plan to ensure that you are maximizing your time and resources. Research the sessions, speakers, and vendors to identify the ones that align with your goals. Make a list of the people you want to network with and schedule meetings in advance. Use the conference app to plan your schedule and set reminders for the sessions and meetings.

During the conference, be present and engaged. Take notes, ask questions, and participate in group discussions. Use breaks and downtime to network with other attendees and vendors. Attend social events and after-parties to continue building relationships. Follow up with the people you meet after the conference to maintain the connection.

Actionable Content Delivery

One of the main reasons why many sales conferences might not be the best use of your time is that they often lack actionable content. To improve the value of the conference, seek out sessions that provide practical advice and strategies that you can implement in your sales process. 

Look for speakers who have real-world experience and can share their success stories and best practices. A lot of the time, that won’t be the most famous name on the schedule. A famous motivational speaker, NFL coach, or host of Shark Tank may be interesting, but they won’t have many actionable sales skills that directly apply to your situation.

Take advantage of workshops and discussion sessions to learn new skills and techniques. Use the conference as an opportunity to learn from experts and peers and to gain new insights and perspectives.

By following these tips, you can improve the value of your sales conference experience and make the most out of your time and resources. Remember to stay focused on your goals, be present and engaged, and seek out actionable content that can help you improve your sales performance.

Here’s the Exception…

You want to be where your prospects are. And industry conferences can be a great way to get in front of decision-makers who can be tough to reach otherwise. Selling to cardiologists? Go to the Cardiovascular Conference 2024.  Selling to HR professionals? Go to the HR World Summit.  

And if you’re selling to salespeople, by all means go to Dreamforce. If your primary market is selling to salespeople, then a sales conference for you becomes an industry conference. Just remember that you’re there primarily to connect with prospects, identify new opportunities, and most of all, close deals.

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